By Andrew Nelson, Contributor
Former Maverick Justin “Socks” Simmons was selected in the eighth round (199th overall) of the NBA’s D-League Draft by the Erie Bay Hawks, affiliate team of the NBA’s Orlando Magic.
The former University of Nebraska at Omaha guard was joined by six other Bay Hawk draftees when he reported for practice last week.
Simmons participated in a pre-draft workout last June with his hometown Milwaukee Bucks, but went undrafted in this year’s NBA draft. However, that didn’t slow down the former UNO standout. He is now the first player from UNO taken in the D-League draft.
“It’s a huge honor to be able to represent UNO,” says Simmons. “It means a lot because it’s a lot more than just me. UNO helped me get to this point, UNO is my second family.”
Simmons has been involved in many of UNO basketball firsts, including last year’s CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) bid and first round win over North Dakota to give UNO their first Division-I postseason tournament victory.
He was also the first Maverick player to earn a Division I all-conference honoree when he earned a second team All-Summit League spot his junior year.
That season, Simmons averaged 16.7 points per game leading the Mavs in scoring and ranking fourth overall in the conference.
Injuries slowed him last season as he averaged just 10.2 points per game while playing significantly less minutes than the season before starting just 17 of the 30 games he appeared in. Simmons will have to regroup this year and transition to the NBA style of play.
“Owners and the coaches of the team are investing in you so it’s pretty serious. I have to go in with a mindset of what has gotten me here and knowing these are grown men that will be just as fast or faster and a lot stronger,” Simmons said about the transition to a professional league.
Simmons believes the transition will have a positive effect on his play.
“I feel like it will be a learning experience and a lot of development as a person and as a basketball player,” he says.
Simmons began his college career as an All-American long jumper at Division-III Concordia (Wisc.). He began his basketball career the following season playing at Butler Community College before transferring to UNO.
Simmons ended his two-year career at UNO averaging 13.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and at least one steal per game.
Simmons is no stranger to the underdog role as he was a “Dark horse” contestant finalist for the 2013 State Farm College Slam Dunk Contest, but finished second. If he would’ve won the voting campaign he would have been featured in the contest nationally televised on ESPN.
The Bay Hawks begin their season this Friday when they travel to Boise, Idaho to take on the Idaho Stampede. Simmons’s former college squad gets their season started Sunday at 4 P.M. against Central Arkansas.
What does former Maverick Justin Simmons expect out of this year’s Maverick Men’s basketball program?
“Great things,” Simmons said.
“They have a lot of experience back from last year plus the new additions are pretty good too. I had a chance to play with them over the summer so I think they will be pretty good.”